By Steve Zoski, Daily News Editor
Published June 15, 2012
High school students applying to college often fall in love with their dream school. But until they receive an acceptance letter, they don’t know if the school loves them back.
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The University is quite the hottie — receiving 39,584 applications in 2010 — and many applicants are left heartbroken when they are waitlisted by admissions.
When Lawrence Yong, a graduate of Granada Hills Charter High School in Los Angeles, was waitlisted in April, he refused to wait idly until he heard what his fate would be. A vocalist in an a cappella group, he decided to send the admissions office a romantic gesture when he put a video online of himself singing a song he wrote called “Michigan, give me one more chance!” to the tune of the Motown hit “I Want You Back” by the Jackson 5.
Wearing a taped-on, paper block M over his shirt and tie and with his younger brother operating the camera, Yong said he only recorded two takes before he uploaded the video to YouTube on April 22. Originally an unlisted video, which made it unsearchable, it now has 225 comments along with 51,547 views, 751 likes and only 27 dislikes.
On June 6 at 7:34 a.m., Yong was e-mailed an acceptance letter from the University. Yong soon posted a screenshot of the admissions letter from his iPhone on his Tumblr account.
He also tweeted his accomplishment to Broadway and University alum Darren Criss, then leaving a message for fans of the YouTube video:
“I GOT IN YOU GUYS! Thank you SO much for all of your support, there’s no way this could have happened without you all!” Yong wrote.
The comment received 142 thumbs up.
In a recent interview, Yong said he wanted to make the video so the University could hopefully get to know him and his desire to go to Michigan better.
“I knew that, traditionally, people would write letters to the admissions office, but I thought since I had already written an essay for the application it wasn’t enough to really show who I was, so I thought it would be better if I made a video, so the admissions office would be able to see my face and kind of see what my gifts are,” Yong said.
Yong said it felt right to set his song lyrics to “I Want You Back.”
“During the time when I was coming up with the concept of making the video it just happened to be stuck in my head, and then I thought it was appropriate because I was kind of asking UMich to accept me to the school,” Yong said.
Additionally, he’d been accepted to another school as a backup, but was set on the University, he said.
Yong also noted that the rapid success of the video was unexpected.
“I was actually very surprised. The first week that I uploaded it, it was unlisted and that means that you ... search it in YouTube (and) you can’t find it because it’s not there,” Yong said.
Yong said part of the reason he was surprised at his video’s popularity is because he didn’t extensively promote the video.
“It was really crazy because not that much advertising happened on my part. I posted it on my blog, but I only have a couple of friends that follow me,” Yong said. “My dad shared it with a couple of church friends, but that’s about all the advertising that happened on our part.”
While there are now many supportive and positive comments, Yong said the first few comments were negative.
“It was actually kind of scary because the first two comments that I got were very discouraging,” Yong said. “All of a sudden this influx of really positive comments came in, and then I got this one comment saying, ‘By the way your video is flying around University staff,’ and I kind of thought, ‘Whoa, that’s crazy.’ ”
In an interview with The Michigan Daily, University alum Craig Gruenberg, choir director at Granada Hills Charter High School, said Yong was a participant in choir and the a cappella group Smooth White Chocolate.
Gruenberg, who participated in the Friars a cappella group at the University when he was a student in the 1960s, said Smooth White Chocolate was inspired by the Friars.
“The University of Michigan is a school that kids talk to me a lot about.”
Gruenberg said Yong had a strong desire to go to Michigan and added that he posted the video on Facebook to support Yong.
“When he found out that he was on the waitlist he (made the video),” Gruenberg said. “I responded to the video and said, ‘Hey Michigan, get this guy into the college there, because he’s a great guy.’ ”
Gruenberg said he saw a lot of other people from their community support Yong’s video online.
“Everyone was cheering (Yong) on,” he said.
Gruenberg also said he thinks the University is a perfect fit for Yong and added that Yong deserves to receive some credit for taking initiative.
“He used social media in a very creative way to help make it happen,” Gruenberg said.